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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Adam Forrest

Sunak migration plan would cost £1bn a year and create ‘permanent limbo’, say campaigners

(Gareth Fuller/PA)

Rishi Sunak’s plan to stop small boat crossings in the English Channel will cost almost £1bn a year, a leading refugee charity has warned.

The Refugee Council said more than 45,000 people who have crossed in small boats in the past year would have been detained indefinitely in “permanent limbo” under the plan.

Earlier this month Mr Sunak announced plans to ban those deemed to have entered the UK “illegally” from making an asylum claim and deporting them as quickly as possible.

But the Refugee Council said the lack of returns agreements with other nations mean tens of thousands of people been held in detention without being deported.

The charity also said it would cost between £405,000 and £2.6 million a day to detain people – or £950m a year – based on official data on the number of crossings.

The Tory government new immigration bill is expected to be introduced within weeks, viewed as Mr Sunak’s big attempt to fulfil one of his five key pledges – to “stop the boats”.

But the lack of returns agreements and offshore processing deals like Rwanda, as well as the expected court challenges against lengthy detention of asylum seekers, has raised down on whether the promise can be met.

“They would not be able to be removed, but neither would they be able to progress an asylum application, work or access support from statutory services,” a statement from the Refugee Council said.

The charity said that if the same number of people made the English Channel crossing, then 45,237 people – 98.9 per cent of those arriving in small boats – would be left in a costly limbo of detention centres.

Home secretary Suella Braverman has warned her party that they will not be “forgiven” if they fail to cut the small boat crossings before the general election expected in 2024.

“I believe my reputation and the reputation of the Conservative Party is on the line here,” she told The Telegraph. “It’s about competence. And it’s about being faithful to the British people who put us in office to fix this problem.”

Asked if it could cost the Tories in 2024, Mr Braverman said: “Well, I think we need to stop the boats to win the election. No ifs, no buts. That’s why the prime minister has made migration one of the five priorities.”

Responding to the Refugee Council report, a government spokesperson said it “makes speculations about new legislation that we have yet to fully announce.”

They added: “People should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach – not put their lives at risk by paying people smugglers to take dangerous and illegal journeys across the Channel.”

Meanwhile, Home Office is resuming responsibility for operations to tackle small boats carrying migrants across the Channel after eight months under the leadership of the Royal Navy.

The move follows the creation announced last month of the new small boats operational command, bringing together military and civilian staff and the National Crime Agency to co-ordinate the government’s response.

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